When the ball left Lillian Heitz’s bat, she knew she’d hit it hard, but thought it was going foul, or maybe would be caught by the left field — it was tough to tell with the blinding evening sun shining toward home plate.
It didn’t take long for the screams of her Riverton softball teammates to give away where the ball landed — over the left field wall for a three-run home run.
Heitz’s sixth home run of the season highlighted a massive 11-run second inning for No. 1 seed Riverton as it ran away from West for the 14-0 Game 1 victory in the best-of-three 6A state championship series.
Big innings have been the norm for the Silverwolves all season, but it picked the perfect time to reel off one of its best of the season.
“We’ve been waiting to get back in this type of atmosphere since last year so the anticipation of playing West, a good team, we were confident at the plate and I think that’s what made the difference,” said Riverton shortstop Jolie Mayfield, who went 2 for 2 and drove in her state-leading 62nd RBI of the season.
All but one Riverton batter recorded a hit, an effort it will look to duplicate in Game 2 on Friday at 1 p.m. as school looks to wrap up a repeat 6A state championship.
“I think we have to have the same approach as we did today, and being confident and trusting each other and keeping the level emotions,” said Mayfield. “It’s easy in state get caught up in the big momentum shifts, if we just stay working together and play our game we’ll be fine.”
The momentum for Riverton’s massive second inning actually started the half inning before with Mayfield’s glove.
West’s Rita Tavita hit a grounder up the middle that seemed destined for center field, but Mayfield dove to her left to stop the ball and then quickly hopped up to her knees to throw out the runner at first.
“Momentum is such a huge thing especially in softball, so when you make a play like that it just gives you confidence for the rest of the game,” said Mayfield.
As often happens it was Mayfield who led off the next inning, and although there was nothing electric about her at bat as she reached on a walk, those little wins are celebrated in Riverton’s dugout as much as home runs and it laid the foundation for the big inning.
Riverton’s next four batters all reached base, but two of them were on West errors as self-inflicted wounds really doomed the Panthers.
It wasn’t long until the big hits started coming. With Riverton leading 3-0, Alexis Shaver and Kaysen Korth hit back-to-back two-run singles to push the lead to 7-0.
Five more batters came to the plate, including Heitz whose moon shot to left pushed the lead to 11-0 after just two innings.
“That was probably the greatest moment I’ve had, it felt really nice to have it be in a state game on a college field,” said Heitz.
She had a two-run single earlier in the inning as she finished with a five RBI innings.
Riverton coach Katelyn Elliott said her team struggled at the plate in the first inning with West pitcher Rita Tavita’s change-up and outside pitch, but collectively they made the adjustment in the second inning and just hit the ball where the defense wasn’t with numerous hits into the gaps and through the infield holes.
“We just took advantage of some key hits hitting the holes, the ball had eyes and we strung a bunch of hits together,” said Elliott.
Riverton added three more runs in the fourth inning, including RBI singles from Mayfield and Kyli Carrell.
Korth finished the game going 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBIs, and then on the mound she was her usual dominant self with seven strikeouts and only allowing three hits as she improved to 24-1 on the season.